The story of how Under Armour got its name makes brand strategists like me cringe, but it does offer an important reminder about the whole process: There is (read: should be) a whole process.
As Richard Feloni reports on Business Insider, June 18, 2015, “The funny reason Under Armour decided to use the British spelling,” Under Armour got its name quite by accident after a number of failed trademark attempts. (The founder’s brother mis-remembered one of those attempts and a brand name was born.) They were lucky however. Amongst those who do it themselves, most new products and companies have names chosen for the moment, not the future, and consequently have to rename later, invest more than planned, or simply suffer the consequences in their product adoption rate.
As with everything associated with bringing your brand to life, name selection must be guided by strategy. You can’t have a brand based on simplicity that has a difficult to pronounce name. That’s just the start. When naming a product, please let someone help you. In the long run, it will be worth it.
What do you want to accomplish with the name? Sometimes product and company names need to just label what something does. Take Apple Numbers or The Container Store. Others want to create an emotional connection with customers. Consider Nest or Pampers. And some want to make a bold impression: Uniqlo. Figure out what kind of role your brand name will play now and in the future. Will a name for a 6-month old company still resonate at 6 years?
How much can you invest? Let’s face it: Taken literally or without context some names for products are ridiculous. Their owners have had to invest millions in creating meaning for their made up names. Smile pretty Google, I’m looking at you. If you don’t have enough money to make “Qipalt” mean something, it’s probably best to skew towards descriptive as opposed to creative or abstract.
Where will it be marketed? Has anyone not heard the infamous story of Chevrolet trying to market the Nova in Mexico? (No va means doesn’t go.) Apparently many haven’t because every year products are launched that are hard to pronounce in other cultures or just don’t resonate as much as they could because of linguistic differences. The Luxembourg yogurt brand must scratch their heads in disbelief whenever Americans try to pronounce “Fage.” (It’s “Fah-yay.”)
Is anyone else using it or something like it? Just because Continental the airline and Continental the tire manufacturer were able to coexist doesn’t mean that your brand can be the same as someone else’s. Look for conflicts — both real and “kinda-sorta” — in your market and in adjacent ones. Pick a trademark attorney to help.
Will it play well with others? Will your new baby be joined by brother and sister products down the road? If so, there should be some continuity between the brands. Plan ahead. Cadillac still has the Escalade, but everything else has lettered names (e.g., XTS, ATS). Kind of makes the Escalade look a little tired, don’t you think?
The name of a brand is so very important to its success. Take the time to approach it in a measured, thoughtful way. Otherwise, you may be renamed “Regretful.”